Thursday, 18 September 2014

On being a charlatan

I don't know that I quite understand this image to the side.
But it might give us all some cause to think about the sort of image that we present, and the image we try to present to the world
We talk a lot, and expend a lot of energy (well I know that I do) trying to convince people that I am other than I am.
Yesterday I had an appointment with someone who had clearly forgotten I was  "duly appointed".....he managed to fake it quite well. He had lost track of the time, and his earlier appointment had cancelled. (I had sort of wanted to cancel too! but didn't because it's usually better tp get it over and done with 
But he faked it...I faked it ( I pretended Felicity, that I had done more practice than I had!) And I was sort of glad to get it over and done with....but he also "faked it well" so (were it not for the fact that I, too, am a charlatan) he could have got away with it. And it was OK
Are we all charlatans? I know I am!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

More about same-sex marriage

I had a very thoughtful and charitable letter from A who "respectfully disagreed" with my views about same-sex marriage.
I think it is now better to call it "equal marriage"
I wrote in reply
A
Thanks for your response to my blog
I have made a number of posts over the years …you may not have tracked them all down
On my blog a link might be:
http://stephenclarks.blogspot.com.au/search?q=gay+marriage
I have a high view of marriage, [ this may surprise you] and part of my discussion about equal marriage opportunity is about encouraging commitment, morality and in particular an environment in which children may be nurtured  with the assurance of love and security. This latter principle is one that is explicitly stated in the Anglican marriage services.
It does seem to me that the gender of the parents is secondary to the parents’ commitment to love each other. This is the primary environment out of which children will know that they are loved. And in that love to allow the children to know that they are loved.
We are all well aware that many homosexual people live immoral lives…..I want them to live committed, decent lives.
Sorry,
I could also re-write that statement : We are all well aware that many heterosexual people live immoral lives…..I want them to live committed, decent lives.
I have experienced a couple of extraordinary things in the last year. A homosexual couple (male) who have embraced twins into their lives. They seemed to think it was going to be a breeze, and it wasn't…my observation is that it has transformed their relationship. They are deeper people, more loving, more capable of embracing carefully the lives of the fragile.
Most gay people do not “choose to be gay”…they are born that way.
Did God want them to live a life doomed to failure? With all due respect, I don’t think God is like that. God does not make life particularly hard for 10%…!
It is not as if we have a God who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses! (Heb 4:15)
I do not think homosexuality is a weakness, any more than heterosexuality is. We struggle with both! We are after all made in God's image. Male and female God created us, ...is is too presumptuous to say "gay and straight" God created us!


Saturday, 30 August 2014

Humbled yet again!

What a full and diverse day I have had!  The parish was privileged to have our Bishop celebrate gently and humbly in our midst this morning; and then to have "low breakfast" with us...croissants and coffee and various forms of Spring Gully jams! (South Australians are nothing if not parochial)
+J was good, and I think none of us would have left feeling anything but encouraged by his words and insights.  I say to people...we come when the Bishop comes to allow our Bishop to exercise his ministry to us.  I think he did that this morning.
I like how he affirmed that the Anglo-Catholic presence is a legitimate expression of what the Anglican Church is like.

I did however have to "go away" to anoint the dying....who subsequently had treatment removed and, thank God, died graciously and well.  He was a fine and intelligent man.

Then my friend G came to the 5 p.m. Mass. He too is a fine man, he is a humble man aware of his limitations; and I don't think it is my job to manipulate people to come to Church. He is smarter than that! He came because he joins us in friendship,  at Craft Group,  and at the Drop-In Centre.

The Mass went better than last week and then I went and chatted to people in the lane (dinner was 10 mins late....a big ask for people who don't have food!) some were under the weather a number were wary of the priest....but I reckon I can wear that....and indeed ride it out....and hopefully develop some trust from them.
I have seldom, if ever, felt so alive as priest as I do today.

I prayed with some care for S & P who were married today. Some who know, and some (like N & P) who have known us for 20 years, would understand that this was not without significance.  I wish S well and pray for her life together with another.

Tonight I said Mass at 5 particularly praying for the Drop-In Centre. I chatted to a number: A vulnerable couple ( who I later witnessed shoutingat each other in the street what seemed like the scream of desperation...don't leave me alone); and a couple of really angry people...and why wouldn't you be...the rich couldn't give a stuff about the poor and are happy to blame and victimise them.  I did NOT vote for the Liberal government! (Or for that matter for a Labor Gogernment)
And my friend G!(spoken of above)....who is a damn sight more intelligent than the world gives him credit for just spoke kindly to me about what he could do.
It has been a full, difficult day. I am humbled....NOT humiliated,  at being allowed the privilege (totally undeserved) of being a servant of Jesus...my buddy. And we have the same Dad!

Friday, 22 August 2014

And dreamt amongst us!

My neighbour ( and I hope, increasingly,  friend) Hilary of the ATF kindly gives me copies  of current productions.  I am impressed by Portuguese priest Jose Tolentino Mendonca (Portuguese wiki here...or some  English commentary)
I made a couple of comments in my previous blog about Our Father who art in earth
A couple of comments he makes early on quoting from other writers
"Choose your place in the middle of a forest and withdraw to that place every day. And pray like this "Lord, I am here waiting for nothing!" " Lord I am here waiting for nothing""  and then again "What about ourselves? To whom will tell our story?"

This morning as I noted this in my journal I quoted John 1 and I wrote "And the Word became flesh and dreamt amongst us!" (normally and dwelt or lived amongst us)

Can I say this resonates deeply with those of us who often have conversations...important conversations...with people about how they want grow spiritually.  God encourages us to dream! And to dream expansively




The Lord's Prayer in Arabic.  


And I note that, by and large,  there is nothing in other religious traditions (Jewish, Ismlamic, Hindu..and even  non theistic Buddhists) that would prevent people from praying the Lord's Prayer. Perhaps also non-religious, (maybe even atheistic spiritual people can be open to this!) It is not the 'property' of the Christian Church. It is a true statement of openness to the God who blesses the reality of daily life

Nice day

I have no doubt that I suffer from SAD.
This is not about being "sad" but about the mood change that happens to some (perhaps even many) people when the season darkens.
So I am really GLAD that we seem to have turned the corner and are heading into Spring.
[I was really glad to go to Hawaii for July and August last year  (here and here). So I avoided the depth of the SA winter in 2013] . Not so this year. Glad it seems to be on the up!
There is a great deal of scientific  evidence  which tells us that SAD is a real issue in Scandinavia and to the North......I often wonder how I could have survived in the grey land of my birth...as beautiful as it is.
Anyway that is not my point today. It is to celebrate my total lift in mood now that the sun is shining.
Meditation and prayer are lifting. There is much going on in my dreams at this time....this too is something that happens in the change of seasons.
I dreamt of a wonderful white (but not dark) Christmas last night...it was almost frenetic. As a convinced Jungian I need to reflect on this....and it was interesting there was both panic and joy. Suspect this is the state of my present life!  Both personal, professional and religious.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Faintly amusing...if it wasn't for the fact that Ministers of the Crown think of themselves as princes!

I wrote to 'Senator' Abetz about the forthcoming push to get the Liberal party room to have a conscience vote about same sex marriage
He (allegedly) replied:

*Dictated by Senator Abetz and sent in his absence
 Dear Dr (sic) Clark,
 Thank you for your email regarding same-sex marriage.

For my part, I firmly believe that the institution of marriage is one that has been uniquely, over the centuries, the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of others for life.  I also believe it is the best environment in which to raise children. This is a bedrock institution of our society that I fully support and I do not support any efforts to make changes to this definition.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact me on this matter.

Yours sincerely


Eric Abetz
Leader of the Government in the SenateMinister for EmploymentMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public ServiceLiberal Senator for Tasmania
---------------
I replied ( this at least allowed me to vent that I am not convinced this is a genuine reply

(Please note that in my original email I informed you that my title was Fr (Father) not Dr….but that your automatic answering system doesn’t allow for my proper title!)

Thanks anyway for your reply. I thank you indeed  for bothering to reply( many of your your colleagues don’t bother)…but would respectfully disagree with your assertions  that “the institution of marriage is one that has been uniquely, over the centuries, the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of others for life.”

It is clear for example, even from the Hebrew-Christian Biblical narratives ( to which I adhere) that marriage is not so concisely or conveniently defined. As religious people we struggle with this.

The Hebrew Scriptures in particular point to a plurality of practice. The Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) for example, appear to have practised polygamy and concubinage. There are numerous stories throughout the Hebrew Scriptures ( the prophet Hosea, the great King David…and so on ) where their marriage ‘practice’ has been anything approaching monogamy.

From sociological perspectives, (my area of academic discipline) it is also quite clear that some cultures have practised polygamy, polyandry, and there are also a number of cultures where people who today we might call ‘transgender’ have been accepted and celebrated.It is simply na├»ve, arrogant (two curiously Western characteristics don’t you think?) and nonsensical to suggest that the Western pattern of, say, the last 50 years is the one and only definitive pattern by which we can and should live our lives.


I serve (and choose to serve) a community which is pluralistic and loving, who want children to grow up in stable families. There are families with children, where both parents are of the same gender.  And some where they are of a different gender.There are men who have committed themselves to each other. And women likewise! There are of course men and women  in loving relationships.   Almost everyone I know has at least one person in their family who is same-sex-attracted
As a Christian and a priest I want to do everything I possibly can to provide for children to grow up with parents who love them.I want people to live lives  in which they don’t feel guilty for just being who they are.

It seems to me that if the State can encourage the parents of children to live in committed relationships…then they should.  It is not the gender that is important. It is the commitment, to the relationship. To the family. To the children.I think everyone has this right. To be a committed parent; and to have parents who will commit themselves to their well being. What, on earth, does this have to do with gender?


Stephen

Didn't really think Abetz's response would be otherwise






Monday, 11 August 2014

We love the Church of God oh what on earth so dear!

I write to Anglicans Online ( a very good thing!...to quote 1066 and All That)  this week

As a parish ( speaking of St Mary Mags) which seeks to reach out, in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, to the poor, the marginalised and those generally disdained by churchy and society; I note that this week there is much sad news throughout the Communion/World.
Death of a young boy  in Iraq, concern about the priest; Gaza...and it's senseless slaughter; oppression of homosexuals by the Ugandan Anglican Church; Ebola and so on.
May we stop "stuffing around" worrying about whether we can have women Bishops, be recognised as a denomination by the State of Italy.... as the King of Siam might say   et cetera et cetera et cetera

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Peter Sculthorpe...the sound of Australia

I came upon the music of Peter Sculthorpe quite late in the piece..
This is because I was a Britain and took a while to get up with what had been happening for 50 years.
My late arrival matters little, his death is deeply sad. (8th August)
But check out his vitally evocative music if and when you get the chance.
Here is a link to some of the understated yet vivid music which so captures Australia...its nature...its quiet (this seems to me a vital thing)..and its subtlety 
While I pray that he may know God's eternal presence, may we also be thankful for his musical gift to Australia and the world



Saturday, 9 August 2014

Illegal immigrants

It was interesting to change my electoral enrolment after 18 years in one of the most Liberal electorates of the country, to a marginal seat.
And find that even though I have been an Australian citizen since 1975, held an Australian passport for almost as long...that apparently the Australian Electoral Commission requires me to prove the same ...after nearly 40 years.
Bloody Cheek! (hence the awful pic!)
A copy of my correspondence to the "Honourable" The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison is below

The Hon Scott Morrison

Minister for ImmigrationCANBERRA 

2nd August 2014

 Dear Minister 

I recently returned a questionnaire sent to me pursuant to my application to change my electoral enrolment after a recent move from the electorate of Boothby to the electorate of Hindmarsh. I must say that I was shocked to be asked to provide documentary evidence of being an Australian citizen, which I have been since 1975 at a wonderful ceremony conducted by her Worship the Mayor of Whyalla, Aileen Ekblom.And,also, a copy of my Australian passport, which I have held since 1985. It is indeed a matter of great offence to one who has deliberately and proudly defined myself as Australian rather than British, and purposefully not held ‘dual citizenship’! I have been enrolled in the electorate of Boothby for the last 18 years; and also in the electorates of Adelaide (on two different occasions) of Makin, and of Grey and of the equivalent State electorates. It has been my privilege and democratic joy.
 It is incredible (but perhaps not surprising) to me that the Electoral Commission cannot routinely check citizenship status and/or the fact that a person holds a valid Australian passport. Particularly given the fact, I assume, they already have access to my previous address and electoral enrolments. 

Respectfully yours

I am absolutely sure I am a threat to the polemical lie of "Border Protection"!

Monday, 21 July 2014

I know that my Redeemer liveth

The first time I ever heard "Messiah" the soprano was Isobel Baillie. I had no idea who she was. If I am right in my reckoning and I was 11 or 12 then she was in her early 70s.
Let me tell you that if I can sing one quarter as well as that lady could sing when I am 70 then I will be pretty pleased.
Tonight another soprano, Sarah Nagy, (aka  Clark) will sing "I know that my Redeemer liveth!"
Different emotions swell up in me as I think of both of these events. As I listened to my daughter sing what I had first heard Dame Isobel sing (perhaps 1960) with such beauty grace and grandeur...I realised the truth of the words.
And indeed Handel's genius to be able to provide a melody which takes you into heaven.
I only pray as I administer Communion for the first time in my new parish Church tonight, that I will not be so totally overcome as to not  reiterate Job 19:25...I know that my Redeemer liveth!

And by the way ...the tiny little woman I saw aged 72...was every bit as beautiful as this picture when she was 27!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Transition


Moving is pretty awful. Whilst full of expectation, challenge and delight...there is so much stuff that needs to be resolved.
We have moved quite well, and still coping with everything else.
It is part of the irony of the modern age that 'no internet'  is one of our biggest worries. It puts a brick wall against certain decisions.

But I guess using the B Naylor maxim....mostly everything will be resolved in 6 weeks.
I hope so.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

A Van Gogh Moment

A Van Gogh Moment













An unexpected tall visitor
appeared in the back yard today
growing between the felled blue gum trunk
and the faded red, straggly geraniums.
I spied her elegance from the house,
but she shyly turned her face away, sunwards.

When I drew close,
faced up to her with gentle greetings,
saw the radiant ring of yellow petals
fringing her fine black face,
I understood why Van Gogh
first painted sunflowers
for sheer joy in Arles in 1888.


Sue Cook
(a birthday present from my friend)

Monday, 16 June 2014

Travels

The last two decades have been a great time of travel for me and mine.
We had a number of lovely holidays, principally at our beach house at Port Elliot.
WE began to experience what was called the "Flah" effect.
This involved driving from Adelaide about 75 kms. You then saw the Southern Ocean, or the delta of the Murray River....and started to travel downhill towards Victor Harbor and Port Elliot.
You could feel yourself go "Flah!"  This was not the exhalation of air but the release of anxiety.   "I have left behind me my mediocre life, and can have a few hours off"
In the first few months this didn't work. I used to get more and more anxious the closer I approached Port Elliot.
I came to understand that it was not the destination that was the problem, but the return. I deeply resented that as I drew closer to PE   it also meant I was going to have to come back!
How weird was that!
Gradually I became used to the fact that it was good to go away....and (possibly) good to go back.
I really loved long Januaries at Port Elliot with whoever, but particularly my children and my parents in law!
We had a lot of holidays in Bali. Some more bizarre than others.
How fortunate are Australians to live so close to this golden isle of Indonesia!
We really liked the exotica, the tropicalia, and just the general fun of Bali.
Some of us even thought shopping was quite a lot of  fun. Not me! but some of us.

Sue and I went to Europe in 2007. It was indeed a final fling. We went to Rome: the Trevi Fountain, the Coliseo, the Vatican Museum ...and to Paris; the Rodin Museum, the Picasso Collection, the Musee d'Orsay....and most most of all the wonderful Monets at L'Orangerie.
We sat on the steps of Sacre Coeur at night time and went to Mass at 10 p.m. at night!
Brecon Cathedral
We ate our way through the boulangerie on the Rue de St Anne, and sailed up and down the Seine.
Sue panicked at the top of the Eiffel Tower, but loved Euro disney.
We caught the train from Paris to Londres and saw some wonderful shows...Wicked, The Drowsy Chaperone, Americans in Paris, .... the Portrait Gallery, the Crown Jewels and so much more.
We accidentally came across the Brecon Beacons and the wonderful St David's cathedral in Brecon. A town apparently on the road to nowhere.
The Church has been there for a thousand years or more.
An exquisite monument. I suspect neglected by most of the historophiles

Politics went crazy

As I think back on the 18 years of politics, I actually once blogged that Tony Abbott was ok (here) !!
Sorry, sorry, sorry...not a word that Liberals are inclined to embrace (all sorts of observations here about what it means to be sorry)


I actually think he is no longer OK. He is discovering that the electorate does not like his brand of absolutist politics, that the rich should get richer while the poor get poorer is not anything like the Australian 'fair-go'

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Struggles of the Church

I am pleased to subscribe to the Dean/Provost of Glasgow's blog.

He talks here of how badly the Episcopal Church in Scotland is dealing with the issue of same-sex relationships
I make my reply:
‘Twas ever so!
I am a priest of the Australian Anglican Church, in the relatively conservative (what used to be ) Anglo-Catholic Diocese of Adelaide.
I blogged a bit about some “safe space” conversations our Diocesan Synod held a couple of years ago (http://stephenclarks.blogspot.com.au/search?q=safe+space). It was one of the most mishandled experiences I have ever had.
I have never seen the conservative evangelicals come out in such force.
One session after a traditional evangelical position was put, and then a liberal catholic place enunciated, was supposed to be a “pastoral response” from a psychologist priest who could not help but state his view that homosexual practice was unbiblical. [This rather limited his capacity to be able to pastorally respond!]
To then witness the Precentor of the Cathedral rip into him was a wonder to behold. How can a loving Church condemn people to hell so easily? And so ignore the real injustices of our society…poverty, refugees, homelessness, racial prejudice…….to name but a view of the sinister things that permeate Australian society.
My own personal victory came from the sense that at least one of the curates of the Diocesan evangelical mega-parish seemed to twig that poverty was more serious ….much more serious…than who has sex with whom!
I was left feeling that those of us who have a catholic view that means that God loves everybody….even if we are not conservative, straight, gay, black or white…you name it; are fighting an uphill battle against a legalistic Protestantism that is more interested in keeping the middle class intact.
WWJD…..I am totally convinced that J would not be at middle class preach Fest in the Adelaide Hills!
I personally think the Australian Church is sh&t scared of debating homosexuality. Its bishops have become Laodiceans (Rev 3:14-15).
My great sadness after these “safe space” discussions was that someone said to me of a person who had been in a small (20+!!!!) discussion group who clearly identified herself as a gay woman….”Oh we haven’t seen her in Church for 3 or 4 weeks”
God help the Church. Because the Church can’t help itself

Saturday, 14 June 2014

I begin to reflect

As I reflect on my ministry
I came to this parish at a time when the Church was ‘different’. Within a few years we had been shaken to our bootstraps by scandals that could never have been  imagined.
The confidence in the Church was deeply shaken. 
I can admit , now , that I found this difficult. I came as a trusted community worker. I became a person whose integrity was completely and utterly challenged.
We were betrayed by a whole range of people who had used their positions of trust and respect to abuse other persons, mentally, physically and spiritually.
Personally I recognise that I went from being a person held in high regard  to one who who was automatically distrusted.
In a few short years we went from the church being an institution where people could be safe to one where people were immediately suspicious.
One of the consequences of this was that numbers dropped quite dramatically.
In the mid 90s I would have expected  that we might have had 200-250 worshippers each week.
It is now remarkable if we have half that number.
Nevertheless, I am still thankful that many people have done more than just reject the church’s ministry. They have recognised that the majority of Christian people continue to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God.
The few, and I think it is ‘a few’ who have betrayed the trust that should have been expected of them, have seriously weakened the Church.
It is probably a good...but it is certainly a painful , thing.
I want to urge any who still are harbouring hurts to come forward and invite the processes to work for their benefit. I pray that I may not have been one who has precipitated any abuse.
For the rest of us, it is good to have had our egos deflated, and our self-importance crushed.

Jesus identifies not with the abuser, but with the abused.  Not with the strong but with the weak. Not with the bully but with the victimised

New title for a new era

I guess most readers will know that I am about to move but I will continue to use this blog (stephenclarks.blogspot.com) even though I have been a bit remiss of late.
It is however my intention to blog in the last couple of weeks about two things:

  1. The glory of moving !
  2. The 18 years I have spent in this parish

 THE SECOND BLOG
I do however have another more systematic blog on which I put my weekly musings in homiletic form
This is called Coromandel Preachings...(here  http://coromandelpreachings.blogspot.com.au/  ) obviously this isn't going to be an appropriate title when I leave this parish.
And there are only three Sunday morning sermons left to go, and one Evensong .  I am calling these the three last things...plus one!
Anyway  I am looking for suggestions for a new title as I move to St Mary Magdalenes.  I will migrate the content to my new blog, but I guess the new priest might like to take over coromandel preachings...or not.  Either is fine

Any suggestions for a title for my new homiletic blog? (email me  frstephenclark@gmail.com)

BYE the BYE
This latter blog was also available from time to time in hard copy.
In a moment of naughtiness this hard copy was titled tongue in cheek The Strumpet....I did this mainly to see if anyone even read it and would comment. It took 6 weeks before someone asked me if I knew what "strumpet" meant!
One of my churchwardens jumped to my defence and said she thought it was short for Stephen's Trumpet!
So it became the 'sTrumpet.
I will still continue to produce it in that format, if you want hard copy of it in these last weeks also email me (frstephenclark@gmail.com)

Indeed if you want to continue receiving after I leave the parish then that's fine too